Compiled by Toby Barrett – (Updated 2017)

This list is intended to be a generalized listing of some of the best sources on the topic—sort of a “go to” pool of information on the subject for researchers, beginners, and modelers. Some works are quite general in nature with others being the epitome of detail. This is not, by any means, an exhaustive list of titles on the subject. There are gaps in subject matter and omissions of many important works. Nor is it a formal bibliography in a sense as I have left off the publishers in many cases. I have compiled this list over the years and am constantly adding to it and updating it. Above all, I would stress looking at the individual bibliographies within each volume itself for more gems to search for….so often bibliographies within books are overlooked for additional materials on a subject.

The opinion and notes expressed on each item are my own. The availability code assignment is also my own and subject to change for each work due to possible to re-editing and/or reprinting of certain works.

The chance success in acquiring any particular volume long out-of-print is based on several factors: the frequency and persistence of the search, the type of agent used in any search, the area of a search, and luck all determine the results when looking for any book or volume of work.

Availability Code - Number notations after each title represent degree of difficulty in finding a copy.

1=Easy, new books or still in print. Or reprints are readily available.

2=Item has been out for a while, and perhaps out of print. Have a bookstore look it up for availability and special order if possible.

3=Out of print - Try a book finder. has used volumes listed when available from other book dealers.

4=Most difficult-very rare or long out of print. Dust off the wallet and be patient.

Arms and Equipment of the Civil War (3)
Jack Coggins (1962 with reprints)

Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War (3)
Warren Ripley
Everything one needs to know about ACW artillery, ammunition, carriages, mortars, etc. Lot of naval stuff. The author is a very good writer and adds a lot of interesting passages and stories one can get lost in. I think this is a must-have book if you can get one.

Battles & Leaders of the Civil War (3)
Four-volume set of both naval and army operations. There was a condensed one-volume work out on this years ago, but I recommend the four-volume set.

Blockade Runners of the Confederacy
Hamilton Cochran (1958)
There are many works out about this subject, but I think this is one of the best. It is a very good read compared to most others and tells the story of the dangers and the overall business of blockade running. But it is most lacking in ship plans and data.

British Battleships 1860 – 1950 (3 possibly a 4 in the US)
Dr. Oscar Parkes (1957)
Excellent work; I go to it often. Very valuable resource for side elevations, deck layouts and arrangements, and ship data. Many photos as well.

Capital Navy: The Men, ships and operations of the James River Squadron (1)
John M. Coski (1996)
Some very good info and some very nice drawings. (Except I do have reservations about the CSS Texas drawing and its casement layout.)

Civil War Ironclads (4)
Robert Macbride (1962)
Good line drawings, but some data and history is in error.

Civil War Naval Chronology 1861-1865 (3)
U.S. Naval History Division (1971)
Complements of the US Government Printing Office Excellent all-around information—try to get one. Good diagrams, photos, and drawings. Thanks David. I think this is a must-have book if you can get one.

Civil War Navies 1855-1883 (1 – possibly a 2)
Paul Silverstone (2001)
An excellent work with ship data, histories, and photos. Plenty of photos, but no diagrams or deck plans, however. Silverstone has an earlier and similar work on this topic and this volume is probably a re-editing of that work.

The Confederate Steam Navy 1861-1865 (1)
Donald Canney (2015) An excellent work with ship data, histories, and photos.

Warships and Naval Battles of the Civil War (4)
Tony Gibbons (1989)
Nice work with color computer generated pictures mostly taken from photographs and prints. There are some errors on data and some ship renderings. I think this is a must-have book if you can get one.

The Complete Encyclopedia of Battleships (4)
Tony Gibbons (1983)
One of my favorite books in my naval library. Very similar in layout to the above title by Gibbons and covers the same ACW. Just looking through it from time-to-time is a joy and an inspiration on all navies 1860 to the present.

The Confederate Navy, a Pictorial History (3)
Philip Van Doren Stern (1962)
Done in hardback, but a large sized paperback edition may be easier to find. A lot of good drawings, woodcuts from the period, photos, and diagrams of vessels and such. I think this is a must-have book if you can get one.

The Confederate Navy: The Ships, Men and Organization, 1861-65
(1 – fast becoming a 2)

Dr. William Still (1997)
Parallel work to the Lincoln’s Navy title listed below.

Conway's All the Worlds Fighting Ships 1860-1905 (2)

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
Naval History Division (printed by the US Government Printing Office—also available on line, see the links section on this web site.)
Multi-volume work broken down by alphabetical listing of vessels such as A-B or C-F, for example. The series was originally printed over the span of several years. My volume (No. II) was first printed in 1963 with several reprints thereafter. (Note: this volume also contains a special appendix on Confederate vessels and is an invaluable source on that subject.)

Early American Steamers - 6 Volumes (4)
Erik Heyl (Copyright 1967) - Excellent study and compilation presenting records, histories and valuable side drawings of of pre-1870 American steam vessels of US and/or Canadian registry. A goldmine of information on US naval "Purchased" vessels, reconfigured vessels used by both sides as armed gunboats, and packets, cargo and passenger vessels used as blockaders, blockade runners and transports. Many of these vessels covered served on both sides as naval vessels and/or for 'leased' purposes transporting government supplies, troops, ordnance etc.

The History of the American Sailing Navy: The ships and Their Development
(3, probably a 4)

Howard I. Chapelle
Many ACW union ships that carried sail.

Infernal Machines: The Story of Confederate Submarine and Mine Warfare (2)
Milton F. Perry (1965).
A very unglamorous and most unchivalrous aspect of naval warfare, but an important and necessary topic to cover. Many forget that torpedoes and mines claimed more victims, both human and ships, during the civil war than any other type of action or weapon.

The Fighting Ship of the Royal Navy, 897-1984
E. H. H. Archibald (1984)
Originally, this volume was a two-volume work broken up into wooden and metal ships more than 20 years before the printing of this one volume work which is what I have. Some very good stuff on the British navy of the period—most useful for European Transition ships. Some color diagrams of inside vessels, but its best use is for data and side elevation views of vessels—no useful deck plans, however.

History of the Confederate States Navy (2)
J. Thomas Scharf
Reprint of an old work. Good history and reading, crude drawings.

Iron Afloat: The story of the Confederate Armorclads
William N. Still Jr. (1971 with many reprints)
A very good work and probably one of the classics on the subject.
One of the best things I like about Mr. Still’s work in this volume and in others is that he just gives you what is known or available on a particular item and tries to refrain from guesswork or speculation. I think this is a must-have book if you can get one.

Lincoln's Navy: The ships, Men and Organization, 1861-65 (1 – fast becoming a 2)
Donald Canney (1998)
The title says it all. If you can’t find Mr. Canney’s two-volume work on the Steam Navy (described above), try to get this work as it has many photos, diagrams, and ship plans culled from the archives.

Naval Warfare: Courage and Combat on the Water (2 – probably more a 3)
John C. Wideman (1997)
This is one volume in a series called the Civil War Chronicles and is concentrated on the naval story. I found it on a book bargain table and it is a gem. Although it is a general overview of the naval action, it’s main value is the clarity of the detail found in the photographs and the inclusion of art prints and paintings from such notable artists as William McGrath, Don Troiani, and Tom freeman. I think this is a must-have book if you can get one.

The Official Military Atlas of the Civil War
Major George B. Davis (Reprinted in 1978 by Arno Press)
This is the official atlas originally printed by the Government Printing Office in 1891-1895 to accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. It is a huge volume in both size and thickness. I have returned to use it on numerous occasions and it is an invaluable source on general maps of areas made during, or soon after, the actual war. It also contains many maps and diagrams of such things as harbors, obstructions, channel depths, forts and redans (including valuable side elevations of both), widths of harbors and rivers—to name a few key topics. I think this is a must-have book if you can get one.

Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion (2)
This work is also available on CD-ROM from many dealers.

Also must list here:

Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies in the War of the Rebellion (2)
Same note on CD-ROM availability. There were many vessels—especially in the early war years—and forts manned by the US Army.

Ordnance Manual 1863
A Morningside House 1995 reprint. Actually this is a twofer deal as this volume is the Confederate version and a direct reprint of the US Ordnance Manual of 1861. Excellent source for notes on siege carriages, implements, munitions, paints, etc. of the period. Some valuable diagram plates in the back.

The Old Steam Navy, Vols. I and II
Donald Canney (1990)
Published by Naval Institute Press and written solely on the Union navy. Well recommended. Mr. Canney has pulled a lot of drawings, photographs and information from the National Archives and other government agencies. Thanks to digital processing and good research, this combined work is an invaluable source on plans, deck plans, photos and history on the subject. I think this is a must-have series if you can get them.

Volume I (3) is on frigates, sloops, and gunboats (1815-1885)

Volume II (4 - and very highly priced when available) is on ironclads (All types - ocean-going, harbor monitors, and river ironclads 1842-1885)

Author’s note: I met Mr. Canney at a Civil War Show in up state Virginia years ago. At the time I was tending my dealers booth and he approached to look over what I had. He introduced himself and said he had just finished a work on the Union navy. I didn’t know who he was at the time. I was polite, but in my mind I was saying “right—another slicked overview of the subject”. At the same show I took a break and found one of Mr. Canney’s volumes at a book dealer’s booth. A couple of flips of pages and I immediately saw my mistake and I snatched up the volume and immediately looked around the room for Mr. Canney, but he was gone. I quickly found the second volume and I’d like to meet Mr. Canney again sometime.

The Photographic History of the Civil War, 10 Volumes (3)
Francis Trevelyan Miller (1957)
Primarily the volume on the navies. Reprinted many times over the years; sometimes these volumes can be found with two titles printed into one volume.

Sailing Warships of the U.S. Navy (1)
Donald Canney (2001)
Well researched as most everything I’ve seen of Canney’s works. Contains many sailing vessels of the Union navy. Same format as his work in the Old Steam Navy series above whereby it has excellent source materials gleaned from the National Archives and thanks to digital processing. A lot of deck plans and photos.

Seamanship in the Age of Sail (2, fast becoming a 3)
John Harland
Excellent source on sails, rigging, history, ship handling and terminology. Sailing men-of war 1600-1860 and good enough for sailing ships and auxiliary steam ship rigs through the ACW. Well recommended.

Ships Versus Shore: Civil War Engagements Along Southern Shores and Rivers (2)
Dave Page
This is a very neat book on where to find ACW naval information, sites, and museums in every key state in the south today. Photos, drawings, and driving directions.

Steam, Steel & Shellfire: The Steam Warship 1815-1905 (2)
Edited by Robert Gardiner (1992)
One of Conway’s History of the Ship Series from the Naval Institute Press.

The Siege of Charleston 1861-1865
E. Milby Burton (1970 with multi reprinting)
This book probably covers more and varied aspects of actual naval action during the civil war – because of the very nature of the area – than any other volume I have seen. It has the opening battle for Fort Sumter, land actions, ship vs. ship confrontations, ship vs. fort actions, engineering and ordnance stories, mine warfare, blockade running, bombardments, personalities, and submarine warfare, to name a few.

The Civil War (2)
A multi-volume set in the Time-Life book series.

The Uniforms of the United States Navy (3 - probably a 4)
James C. Tily (1964)
Photographs, drawings, and written descriptions. Excellent work on this specific subject.



Last update November 10, 2017